January 11, 2009

I've heard of Rome, but where is Genova?

For all you history buffs out there, this post is for you. Many of us in the USA have heard the stories of Rome's greatness, the "fluid" streets of Venice, the latest fashions of Milan, and the Renaissance treasures of Florence. But not many Americans have ever even heard of Genova (or "Genoa" in english). So, an introduction to my adopted city seems appropriate:

Genoa is a major port city located on the northwest coast of Italy.
(represented on this map by the big black dot:)

(Click on the image to enlarge)

Genoa is 311 miles (501km) north of the birthplace of civilization: Rome (think Caesar, the Roman Empire, running water, sewers, the coliseum, etc.) and just 88 miles (142km) south of the fashion capital of the world: Milan (think Dolce & Gabbana, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, etc.).

The man given credit for discovering the "new world": Christopher Columbus (yes, that Christopher Columbus) was born in Genoa. (in fact, we have visited what is believed to be his birthplace and childhood home) The city is surrounded by a series of Medieval walls built to protect it during its long history of foreign invaders. During the Renaissance, Genoa was one of the largest and wealthiest cities of Europe. Its influence (via sea commerce) stretched as far as the Middle East.

The city began as a port for the Ligurian people around the 6th century BC, and traded with the Greeks and the Phoenicians. Although the city is on the Mediterranean Sea, the section of the sea directly adjacent to the coast is called the Ligurian Sea (getting its name from the ancient people group that founded the city).

Genoa was destroyed in 205 BC by Carthage for its loyalty to Rome. In turn, Rome played a major role in rebuilding the city. During the middle ages, Genoa spread its control of the sea to the neighboring islands of Corsica and Sardinia. It defeated its only competitor in the region (Pisa) in a series of battles leading up to a victory at Meloria in 1284. After that, Genoa established colonies in North Africa and the Middle East and continued to flourish during the Crusades. During this time, many Medieval castles were constructed all over the hillside facing the port. The majority of those castles are still standing today, and the area where our Villa is located is home to many of them (that is why our "neighborhood" is called the "Castelletto" section of Genoa). Having grown into a major player in sea-faring trade, Genoa aroused the angst of another major port city in the Mediterranean: Venice. The two cities fought tremendously for many years. Venice finally gained the upper hand in 1380 with a naval victory in Chioggia. After this, Genoa never fully recovered.

Over the next several hundreds of years, the French, Austrians, and Milanese each had control of the city at various times. The city was subsumed into "Piedmont" in the 1800's and became a French Province. This link established a future for the struggling city.

During World War II, Genoa was bombed very heavily by the Allies for Italy's support of the Nazi Regime. (Although, our friend Luca has told me that Genoa was the only city in Italy that did not support Hitler and, instead, boasted a majority of its population in favor of the Allied efforts...interesting). But during the decades following, the city rapidly rebuilt itself once again into a major Meditteranean port.

So, now you know....


  1. Hey -- I left a comment yesterday -- did I do it wrong, or do you delete them after they are read? MOM

  2. Hey --- I guess I posted incorrectly, so here's another try. I wanted to tell you I really like the History Blog about the region where you are -- VERY interesting (and of course I love the pictures). :) MOM